The Kiss of Death. Ten Things Hurting Your Event.
We’ve all seen it. The event is scheduled for this weekend. Donors have supported the organization by raising thousands of dollars. Countless staff hours have gone into the planning the event. It’s go time! Or is it?
Here are ten mistakes when organizing a fundraising event that will directly impact post walk revenue and donor retention.
- Poor direction signage to find the event and a lack of parking. Participants are circling the area (especially if your event expects a large crowd) trying to figure out where to go. Participants may be unfamiliar to the area. They see the tents, and the stage, but where do we park? Maybe there is no parking lot and participants have to find a space on the street. Or the dreaded parking garage to spend $20, $30, maybe $40 to park for the day. What a way for a participant to start the day. Street signage and adjacent parking so your participant can celebrate their involvement with your organization.
- Start the event late. How do you feel when you show up on time and the plane, train or people are late and keep you waiting? Your participants have the same frustration when events don’t start on time. They’ve set aside the morning to attend your fundraising event. They got up early. Showed up a half an hour early and now they are standing around while the staff is still setting up for the event. Not a good stewardship tactic. Plus a late start means a late finish and they will leave whether the event is done or not.
- Dull Events with lots of down time. First and foremost, participants must have a good time. Events should be fun, energizing – a celebration of why they support the organization. With everything involved in organizing an event sometimes the guest experience is lost in the shuffle. Do not let there be “down” times where people are standing around with nothing to do. Their attention span is short. Don’t let it happen to you.
- The event that never ends. After a late start, the event festivities finally begin and goes on, and on, and on, and on. Somewhere someone thought the longer the event the more people will enjoy it. Let’s get more people to talk on the stage. The event is now going on six hours with no end in sight. Why are there only a few people left to see the check presentation? Even the vendors are tearing down while the event goes on, and on. Remember, your participants are busy people. They have family commitments and errands to run. Keep that in mind and make sure your event ends on time, while everyone is having a good time. Send them home wanting more. They’ll be back.
- No timeline or script for the MC. This follows the event that never ends. Who speaks next? When do we start the walk? Are the rest stops ready? If you don’t outline exactly what happens when, and by whom, then expect chaos at your event. A timeline should be detailed to the minute. It should be distributed to all key staff/volunteers and someone should make sure you stick to it. In bike racing, it’s called “the whip.” A person who’s sole job is to make sure races start on time by getting the riders to the starting line on time.
- Have a poor or inadequate sound system. What did they say? I’ve heard this statement many times at an event. You have a huge audience. They are ready to go. And then the person on stage is saying something prophetic. Huh? I can’t hear. Where do we go? You just lost their attention and they start up their own conversation. If your event is large, have a professional sound person make the recommendations and set up the equipment. You want your participants to hear what you have to say.
- Inadequate support on the course. The event starts and half your walkers find the rest stops have no water, no porta-toilets and some have gone the wrong way because of poor signage. It’s chaos out there and the complaints start as soon as the walkers make their way in. Talk about losing donors. And eight months from now senior management will wonder why registration is down from the prior year. Maybe they should have been there to make sure the course was adequately managed.
- The Board president launches his announcing career at your event. There is nothing worse than having someone inexperienced at the microphone of a large event. When someone from senior management assumes the role there is no stopping them as the forget the script and launch into their own budding career as a talk show host. The timeline is also forgotten, the sponsors are not mentioned and the endless repetition about donors not giving enough money is not warming up the crowd. Get a professional MC! They are easy to find and sometimes the local radio or television stations will do it as part of their sponsorship.
- Lack of staff or volunteers. Someone underestimated the task at hand. You need a small army and what you got were three senior citizens and two board members trying to tell you what to do. Now don’t get me wrong about senior citizens. They can be very helpful but not carry cases of water, setting up tents or unloading tables from trucks. Get help, more help, young help and strong help. The more the better and have all job assignments written down on paper to distribute to team leaders so everyone knows what to be done when.
- Forget to thank your donors, your participants, your volunteers and your staff. If you’re like most organizations people help and support you because they want to be part of your mission, not because they are paid for their services. You “pay” them by thanking them and letting them know that it couldn’t be done without them. Come up with awards, recognition letters, staff party, and the more you do this the better your next event with increased participation.
These are just ten mistakes to avoid when organizing your fundraising event. I wish this was everything, but I’m sure you can think of many I’ve left out. Just remember as the saying goes, “the devil is in the details.” The more attention you pay to the details, the better the event. We all make mistakes and forget things. Believe me, I’ve made my share. The goal is to plan well, minimize the mistakes and be able to address challenges as they confront you without losing your cool. By following a solid plan, with plenty of support and hosting a fun-filled energizing event will directly impact your donor and participant retention. For more information about how to plan the best event, contact us by signing up for our newsletter.